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Three earthquakes rock North Idaho, centered near Sandpoint

Bottles and glasses clinked on bar shelves and some residents reported pictures falling off their walls, but little damage was reported from a series of earthquakes that shook North Idaho last night, centered 14 miles southeast of Sandpoint. The three earthquakes, with magnitudes of 4.1, 4.2 and 3.3 on the Richter scale, hit at 7:32 p.m., 10:43 p.m. and 1:28 a.m.

Residents inundated the Bonner County 911 center with calls. “We have earthquake faults in our county, but it’s not prone to earthquakes,” said Bob Howard, Bonner County’s emergency management director.

But earthquakes near Sandpoint are not unheard of, writes S-R reporter Jonathan Brunt. A magnitude-5 quake shook the town in 1942. Idaho experienced two of the most destructive quakes in the lower 48 states in the 20th century: The 1959 Hebgen Lake earthquake, a magnitude 7.5 temblor centered 10 miles across the state line in Montana, and the 1983 Borah Peak quake, magnitude 7.3, which killed two people and caused millions in damage hundreds of miles south in Challis and Mackay. You can read Brunt's full report here at spokesman.com.

Earthquakes rattle North Idaho

UPDATE: A third earthquake, magnitude 3.3, was reported eight miles east-southeast of Sandpoint at 1:28 Friday morning.

Original story:  Two earthquakes shook Sandpoint and much of North Idaho Thursday night, but there was little damage.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported a magnitude 4.1 earthquake at 7:32 p.m. about 14 miles southeast of Sandpoint, east of Lake Pend Oreille, just south of Kilroy Creek.

The second quake was recorded at 10:43 p.m. The 4.2-magnitude quake’s epicenter was within Lake Pend Oreille, just west of Hope. More here.

Yellowstone fighting online supervolcano rumors; bison not fleeing

WILDLIFE — Yellowstone National Park is fighting online rumors that running bison seen in a YouTube video (above) are fleeing a possible explosion of the park’s supervolcano.
The video was posted on March 20, 10 days before a magnitude-4.8 earthquake hit, the park’s strongest quake in 30 years.  
Yellowstone posted a video of its own this week, noting that it’s normal for wildlife to move around to find food at lower elevations that isn’t covered by snow at this time of year. Park spokesman Al Nash says there are no signs to suggest that the volcano is about to erupt.  
Although the YouTube video says the animals are leaving, park spokesman Dan Hottle said  they are actually running toward the park’s interior and the volcano. 
Sometimes animals just take off running. That's the way it is.

Tuesday Video: What a radioactive Japan looks like

Check out this beautiful short film, called “Blind,” which imagines what would happen if the gas masks that many Japanese bought after Fukushima had ended up being necessary in Tokyo. It's a terrifying experience.


Bachmann: God Sent Quake, Hurricane

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) joked in Florida this weekend that last week's earthquake and hurricane affecting the East Coast were signs from God, meant to grab lawmakers' attention. The Tea Party congresswoman, who took her campaign for president to the Sunshine State this weekend, joked about the case of those natural disasters during a stop in Sarasota. "I don't know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We've had an earthquake; we've had a hurricane. He said, 'Are you going to start listening to me here?'" she told the audience, per the St. Petersburg Times/Michael O'Brien, The Hill's Blog Briefing Room. More here.

Question: Does God use natural disasters to gain people's attention?

Washington Monument Damaged

After taking a closer look at the Washington monument Tuesday, National Park Service officials found some cracks at the very top of the world's tallest obelisk. Structural engineers plan to continue examining the monument Wednesday to decide how to best fix the 127-year old structure, which remains closed indefinitely after a 5.8 Earthquake struck Tuesday near Mineral, Virginia. The monument is the highest profile structure to suffer damage, perhaps because it is also the tallest: 555 feet. The landmark in downtown Washington near the White House is also the world's tallest stone structure/CBS News Political Hot Sheet. More here. (AP photo)

Question: Which monument in Washington, D.C., is your favorite?

25 Years after Chernobyl

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear plant. Check out this scary film showing scientists venturing inside the plant's cement sarcophagus, which keeps its nuclear material contained - for the moment.


How Fukushima is the Deepwater Horizon of nuclear accidents

Last week I came across a well-written piece in Slog, The Stranger's blog, by Goldy about the Fukushima reactors. The writer admitted they succumbed in the early stages to peer pressure and a basic understanding of the science to reassure readers that Fukushima was not Chernobyl. I could relate. I spent time espousing that theory myself. Today, with our technology, it would be impossible to produce a similar explosion. (It certainly doesn't mean the environmental damage could be worse.)

"No, the better metaphor for Fukushima is turning out to be last year's Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a disaster that dragged on for months, steadily spilling millions of gallons of toxic crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico," Goldy writes. "Like last year's Gulf spill, corporate and government incompetency/misinformation has made the severity of the Fukushima leak impossible for the public to measure. Likewise, Japanese government officials are now admitting that the release of radioactive materials may too continue for months."

Now comes the news of the evacuation area expanding.

Japan releases radioactive water several million times the legal limit into the Pacific Ocean

Democracy Now reports
radiation at the shoreline of the Fukushima nuclear power facility has measured several million times the legal limit, just four weeks after the earthquake and tsunami and days after workers discovered a crack where highly contaminated water was spilling directly into the Pacific Ocean.

On yesterday's program, host Amy Goodman was joined by Phillip White, an international liasion officer at the Citizens Nuclear Information Center in Japan.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the millions—the radiation is millions of times the acceptable limit. What does this mean in the water, in the ocean?

PHILIP WHITE: Well, it depends how it spreads out, whether it goes off into the Pacific or whether it accumulates in pockets along the coastline. It will certainly have an effect on fishing. The fishing industry is already seriously damaged by this. But I think you’ve got to look at it as—it’s an ongoing thing. It’s not as if this one release solves the problem. Tokyo Electric Power Company says that this will have a very small—be a very small dose, represent a very small dose to people who continue to eat fish. But whether or not that is an accurate analysis, it’s not as if this is the end of the story. So, it’s a very serious situation, and it’s a long way before this is going to be brought under control.

Flyover of Fukushima shows damage

This scary flyover video in HD of the Fukushima plant shows the extent of the damage with rubble still smoking. Now the utility responsible for the reactors, did not until very recently have enough dosimeters for all of the employees who are working to stop an even worse catastrophe at the plant.

Normally, dosimeters would be worn at all times in order to measure cumulative exposure to radiation. Because of that error, worker exposure can only be estimated. A mother of one of the workers said her son and his colleagues are "have accepted they will all probably die from radiation sickness in the short term or cancer in the long-term."

More depressing news: Radiation has seeped into the groundwater and there are more reports of food becoming tainted.

Chernobyl cleanup survivor to Japan: “Run away as quicky as possible”

This is the amazing story of Natalia Manzurova. She was a 35-year-old engineer at a nuclear plant in Ozersk, Russia, in April 1986 when she and 13 other scientists were told to report to Chernobyl only four days after a reactor caught fire. Manzurova and her colleagues were among the cleaners tasked with leading the removal and burial of all the contamination in what's still known as the dead zone.

She spent 4 1/2 years in an abandoned town called Pripyat , which was less than two miles from the Chernobyl reactors, helping clean. Manzurova says she is the only member of her team still alive. Now 59 and an advocate for radiation victims worldwide, she has the "Chernobyl necklace, " a scar on her throat from the removal of her thyroid. (Something Hanford "downwinders" have experienced.)

Yesterday morning, AOL news spoke to her about Japan before she began a tour organized by Beyond Nuclear. Please take the time to read this interview:

AOL News: What was your first reaction when you heard about Fukushima?
It felt like déjà vu. I felt so worried for the people of Japan and the children especially. I know the experience that awaits them.

But experts say Fukushima is not as bad as Chernobyl.
Every nuclear accident is different, and the impact cannot be truly measured for years. The government does not always tell the truth. Many will never return to their homes. Their lives will be divided into two parts: before and after Fukushima. They'll worry about their health and their children's health. The government will probably say there was not that much radiation and that it didn't harm them. And the government will probably not compensate them for all that they've lost. What they lost can't be calculated.


Why Fukushima is not Chernobyl

Yesterday's Tuesday Video looked back at Chernobyl
 with a rare glimpse into the dangers of radiation- but now we're finding more factors which will fortunately prevent Fukushima from reaching those levels. According to the Guardian:

A concern for the people not just of Japan but the Pan Pacific area is whether Fukushima will turn into the next Chernobyl with radiation spread over a big area. The answer is that this scenario is highly unlikely, because of the wildly different design of the two reactors.

The reason why radiation was disseminated so widely from Chernobyl with such devastating effects was a carbon fire. Some 1,200 tonnes of carbon were in the reactor at Chernobyl and this caused the fire which projected radioactive material up into the upper atmosphere causing it to be carried across most of Europe. There is no carbon in the reactors at Fukushima, and this means that even if a large amount of radioactive material were to leak from the plant, it would only affect the local area.

Wikileaks reveals Japan warned about nuclear plant safety

Thanks to the forces that be for protecting us from this information.

A document obtained via a U.S. embassy cable
by Wikileaks quoted an unnamed expert who expressed concern that guidance on how to protect nuclear power stations from earthquakes had only been updated three times in the past 35 years.

Tuesday Video: This is what a meltdown looks like

The explosion at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was elevated to a  "serious accident" on a level just below Chernobyl. The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale — or INES — goes from Level 1, which indicates very little danger to the general population. "It's clear we are at Level 6, that's to say we're at a level in between what happened at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl," Andre-Claude Lacoste, president of France's nuclear safety authority, said today.


Due to higher safety standards, advance warning, and evacuation notices, it's not likely that things will get as bad as in Chernobyl. Below is a rare silent film was taken on location just days after the Chernobyl meltdown- even the filmmaker was killed in the process. 

His name was Vladimir Shevchenko and he worked for Central TV in Ukraine in 1986. He was given unprecedented access to the Chernobyl zone right after the meltdown and explosion destroyed reactor number four at the nuclear power plant. Radiation levels weren't entirely understood at the time- most of the people you see received lethal doses while working close to the reactor. Shevchenko himself climbed on the roof of the plant to get footage of the destroyed reactor core wearing just a cotton facemask for protection. He died of cancer a few weeks later.

At the plant in Daichi, about 200,000 people in a 12.4 mile radius were previously evacuated. Still, according to David Lochbaum,  director of the Nuclear Safety Project for the Union of Concerned Scientists, "The contamination levels aren't linear, so the farther away you get doesn't necessarily mean you get a lower dose rate. Chernobyl, in some cases, had areas 100 miles away from the facility having significantly higher radiation levels than areas only 10 or 15 miles away."

6.3 quake shatters Christchurch, NZ

Good evening, Netizens…

Christchurch, New Zealand At least 65 people are dead, although that number may rise, and hundreds more may be trapped beneath the rubble after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand at the peak of a busy workday. Video footage Tuesday showed some multistory buildings collapsed in on themselves, and others with walls that had collapsed into the streets, strewn with bricks and shattered concrete. Sidewalks and roads were cracked and split, and thousands of dazed, screaming and crying residents wandered through the streets as sirens blared. Groups of people helped victims clutching bleeding wounds, and others were carried to private vehicles in makeshift stretchers fashioned from rugs or bits of debris.

The spire of the iconic stone Christchurch Cathedral toppled into a central city square.



Silsby sentenced to time served, released

The Associated Press is reporting that Laura Silsby, the 40-year-old Idaho missionary who led a group of 10 Americans that was caught trying to take a busload of children out of Haiti after the Jan. 12 earthquake, has been sentenced to time served and released. Silsby maintained she wanted to rescue orphans after the earthquake and take them to a new orphanage she hoped to establish in the Dominican Republic; however, it turned out all the children had at least one living parent, and Silsby lacked the necessary permits to take the 33 children out of the country. She was convicted of arranging illegal travel; the AP reports that she returned briefly to her jail cell to pick up her belongings, then headed to the Port-au-Prince airport.

Idaho’s four-member congressional delegation issued this statement on Silsby’s release: “We are pleased the Haitian judicial process for Laura Silsby has concluded and that she will be returning home.  This has been a trying time for her family and friends, and they will undoubtedly be happy to have her back in Idaho.” Click below to read the full story from the AP.

NPR: In Haiti Children Long for a Home

This boy, named Joseph, is recuperating from a broken femur following the earthquake in Haiti, in which he lost both his parents.

“Haiti is a country of children. Half the population is under 18 years old. And since the earthquake, it seems kids are everywhere — carrying water buckets, pushing wheelbarrows full of rubble, flying kites and playing with toy cars amid the tents that are now homes.

There also are many children who are alone, orphaned since the Jan. 12 quake that killed more than 200,000.” Full story.

Stories like these are hard for me to read. If you could, would you open your home to one of these kids?